Why Braddock Avenue Books?

Braddock Avenue is a place. And it’s an idea. Above all, an idea. We decided to locate the press in this stretch of postindustrial Pittsburgh for three compelling reasons—each one speaking to a central tenet of the press. Here they are.

First, the city of Braddock cascading down a hillside and into the flats of a small valley, is a place that refuses to give up. The landscape is a memory of industrial greatness and the main avenue a wind-tossed street that seems to know what you’re thinking.

At one end of the long avenue that takes its name from the city, is our office, located in a repurposed school and rectory, home to an art gallery and studios, a writer’s residency, and a webhosting service for antiquarian booksellers. A modern urban art colony. Just across the street, the U.S. Steel Mill hums and smokes, and pours out shift workers round the clock, though the string of cars is smaller now and the drivers head home to green suburbs with long driveways and blue pools and far newer homes than Braddock has. Mid-avenue, the nation’s first Carnegie Library, newly refurbished and a brilliant reminder of the power of books, commands respect as a spiritual anchor and visible reminder of Braddock’s greatness. But this isn’t all. Along with homes and park spaces and a community garden, the remaining stretch of Braddock Avenue hosts small shops like Bell’s and Stamboli’s meat markets, Lucky Frank’s bar, a handful of used furniture stores like Golden Treasures, a pawn shop, and Comet News, and a florist, and a bank that’s no longer just a bank, a night club, an auto parts store, a senior residence, and Al’s Market, squatting at the opposite end of the business strip like a dark challenge to anyone who would dare say Braddock is dead. This is Braddock, Pennsylvania, where people with names like Tiny, and Darlin’, and Joe linger among the memories and the murals keeping the spirit of place alive.

Of course, the population has dwindled since the heyday of Braddock. But since when have numbers revealed anything meaningful about commitment? And that’s the second reason we chose Braddock.

A small, sturdy population calls Braddock home and refuses to let it die. In fact, you may have seen or read about the Braddock Redux project that’s revitalizing this community—or perhaps you recall the Levi campaign—each turning the tide by converting old buildings into homes and community facilities and inviting new businesses to try us out, like the daring restaurateur who’s planning to open a high-end eating establishment and is showing his commitment to the place by living there. Braddock is bringing people back.

So, here’s the third thing you should know about us and our mission. We chose the location not only for the past glory and present potential but also because it was here that General Edward Braddock ended his march from Maryland, carving the National Road as he went, with a brave defense for a cause he believed in. Braddock stood his ground with real courage— not the easy t.v. kind—against overwhelming opponents. The battle that took his life occurred just over the hill from where the press stands today. On a quiet day, from our offices, you can feel the passion of his bold stand.

Braddock Avenue Books draws its inspiration and energy from these movements to resist cant and convention, to battle for authentic voices, to fight with ideas for the ideas that matter, and to support a life of purpose. Our project takes its spirit from the place and from the people who have lived—and still live—here. We hope that we can count you as one of us.